Harvard Law Donor Balks at Supporting Discourse When It Comes to Palestine

Print Share on LinkedIn More

February 19, 2016; ABC News (Associated Press)

After making a five-year grant of one million dollars in 2012 to support Harvard Law School, Milbank, a New York–based law firm, asked that its logo be prominently displayed on all materials related to activities its grant was used for. All was well until that logo showed up in connection to an October forum from the student group Justice for Palestine on the suppression of Palestinian advocacy.

The group was merely complying with a request from the law school’s dean that the logo be “prominently displayed” when it thanked the firm on its Facebook page. By the following day, the group was asked to remove all references to Milbank on their page.

Milbank promptly asked Harvard Law School to use the money for other purposes, and Harvard rushed to say that Milbank had never had any part in decisions about what to fund and that Milbank’s grant would no longer be used to underwrite student events. Other students were told that the Fund had been discontinued, though the gift was not withdrawn.

Katherine Franke, a law professor at Columbia Law School thinks the interaction sends a bad message. “This kind of influence will have a chilling effect, to be sure, on the kinds of things students feel comfortable saying,” Franke said. “We should celebrate robust discussions about the most difficult issues of the day, including viewpoints that might make us uncomfortable.”—Ruth McCambridge